The Blunderer

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The Blunderer
First edition (US)
Author Patricia Highsmith
Country United States
Language English
Genre Suspense / Psychological Thriller
Publisher Coward-McCann (US, 1954); W. W. Norton & Company (US, 2001)
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 288 pp
ISBN 978-0-393-32244-6
OCLC 48053872
813/.54 21
LC Class PS3558.I366 B58 2001

The Blunderer is a psychological thriller by Patricia Highsmith, first published in 1954 by Coward-McCann. It was third of her 22 novels, the second published under her own name.


Mild-mannered lawyer Walter Stackhouse has come to hate his neurotic wife Clara. He has suffered for years as she alienated all his friends and embarrassed him with her penchant for overly dramatic gestures. After he becomes infatuated with the sweet and sensuous music teacher Ellie Briess, Clara jealously attempts suicide by overdose, forcing him into her arms once again. However, he eventually stands his ground and demands a divorce. When Clara is then found dead, having fallen off a cliff during a bus trip to see her dying mother, Walter finds himself blundering around in the dark as the official investigation gets under way. He admits that he stalked her bus in his car, whilst daydreaming about the possibility of killing her at the first stop, just as Melchior J. Kimmel, a 40-year-old bookshop manager, murdered his own domineering wife Helen, an unsolved crime that Walter had read of in the paper and grown fascinated by.

Both Stackhouse and Kimmel soon encounter the formidable, possibly psychotic Lieutenant Lawrence Corby, a police officer with savage ambition who is convinced of their guilt and believes that Stackhouse consulted Kimmel before murdering his wife. Corby soon begins encroaching on his suspects' lives, releasing details of their behavior to the press to distance them from their friends and work associates, and even assaulting Kimmel.


In the New York Times, Anthony Boucher recognized the novel's similarity to Strangers on a Train in its "striking plot idea", which is "so complex that it defies brief synopsis". He continued:[1]

The novel starts off admirably both as suspense and as a deeper analysis of character, but passes the point of no return as the author gropes for (and fails to find) a way out of the intricate situation she has set up. Hardly a successful novel, but an ambitious and largely interesting attempt.

Film adaptations[edit]


  1. ^ Boucher, Anthony (October 3, 1954). "Criminals at Large". New York Times. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 
  2. ^ Enough Rope at the Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ McNary, Dave (May 8, 2014). "Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel Starring in Murder Mystery". Variety. Retrieved June 6, 2015. 
  4. ^ Abramovitch, Seth (September 25, 2015). "Killer Films' Co-Founders Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler on Lesbian Romance 'Carol' and Indie Resilience". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 

External links[edit]